Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 2nd Man within the Church

               The 2nd Man within the church is generally referred to as the Associate or Assistant Pastor. He is often the go to man for most things within the church and is often considered the right arm of the Senior/Lead Pastor. However, there often is a misunderstanding of the 2nd man’s role within the church by both the pastor associate/assistant, and especially the congregation.  Having been in pastoral ministry for the past 33 years, I have been the 2nd man in churches with a small congregation of 40 to a larger congregation of over 3000 and assisted the various pastors in a full-time capacity, as well as, part-time and volunteer positions.  However, no matter where I have been, the job has been the same: assist the Pastor.
              
My definition of a 2nd Man is quite simple, “To assist the pastor in accomplishing the mission that the God has called him to do within the Body of Christ in which we both serve together.”
 I’m about to make a statement that is going to send some Associate/Assistant, Children’s and Youth Pastor over the cliff.  As the 2nd man, you are hired to serve with the pastor, you are not the shepherd.  I believe that God only calls one Shepherd for each flock to avoid confusion and chaos.  There can be only one direction, one mission, one plan of action, and one leader.  As the 2nd Man, you can provide wisdom and support but ultimately, it is the pastor who leads the ministry.
              
I believe that there are key strategies for both pastor and 2nd man.

1.       Support your pastor publicly, disagree with him privately.
It is never appropriate to disagree with him publicly.

2.       Discuss your doctrinal disagreement prior to preaching or teaching in the church.
·         There has been times that I have worked with a pastor that has a different view of Calvinism than I do or the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If you’re going to be teaching or preaching, you don’t want you compromise your personal beliefs, so it is better to let him know your feeling or thoughts beforehand. But it is important to find out how the pastor wants you to proceed.

3.       Take your concerns to the pastor first, not members of the church.  This could also apply to the pastor if he has a concern with the Associate.
·         If you have a concern about something the pastor is saying, doing, or something in the church that you’re concerned about, you have an obligation to talk with the pastor first. If it is not resolved and the concern involves ethical, moral, or spiritual issues, take it to denominational leaders or your church board. A word of caution: pray before you do this and be prepared to defend what you say.

4.       Be yourself, but not to the point that you over shadow the pastor.
·         My personal style is very outgoing while others are more reserved even stoic.  Just be cautious that you don’t become the center of attention at the church; always keep the focus on the pastor and most importantly CHRIST.

5.       Don’t fall into the trap of believing your own press. Members that are disgruntled with their pastor will often attempt to influence the Associate rather than speak to the pastor; it is a dangerous walk.
·         To be blunt, if you need to be the boss and the center of attention and can’t see yourself as an assistant (non-dominant), don’t take the position.  But, if you’re ready to be a blessing to Christ, your pastor, and to your congregation, then step into the very rewarding position as an Associate.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

White man preaching in the African American church!

                I recently preached on Sunday morning for a dear friend of mine as he celebrated his anniversary as pastor of his church in Cincinnati Ohio. I have known this pastor for a number of years, and have spoken to his men’s group prior to the invitation for Sunday morning. It is important to understand this is not my first go around in the African American church, my best friend for over 20 years pastors a African American church here in Cincinnati, and I have spoken in at least a half dozen African American churches over the past 20 years.
                Growing up in the Fundamental Baptist movement of the 70’s was a God send when comes to crossing over to the African American church.  The fiery preaching of the Pulpiteer’s of yesteryears in the white church are all but gone.  They have been replaced by the teaching pastors, the encourager, and sermonette. One of the great pastors I remember as a young preacher was A.V. Henderson he used to tell us in college … “Get up, speak up, sit down, and let God do the rest”.  My pastor Dr. Don Lougheed at the Flint Baptist Temple, used to say “I don’t care where you start in scripture, always run for the Cross!”
                Watching a African American church service on T.V. or listening to one on the radio, will not prepare you for the personal experience of being introduced, reading your text, and beginning a dialogue with the group of people that are so excited you showed up to preach. I have preached in dozens of white churches, from independent Baptist, Southern Baptist, Church of God, Methodist, and yes Assemblies of God and have never felt the excitement of people wanting to hear what I had to say.   This is the experience that I have when I am invited to preach in African-American churches.
                Four things that you must come to understand as you prepare, preach, and provide an opportunity for the folks at the African American church you preach in to worship with you.
1)      You must lose any racial stereo type you may have, until you preach in a African American church you haven’t experienced anything yet. Not all African American churches are alike just like not all white churches are alike. However, my experience the African American church is more excitable and interactive with the speaker.
2)      Always be yourself they can identify the fake a mile away.
3)      Always preach the scripture, African American churches are not about the short sermonette, or the simple teaching, they are about the word of God from cover to cover.
4)      Always be ready to show up, and show out as they say in the African American church. Remember you are their guest.  Don’t change their style of worship, part of the fun preaching in the African American church is the Deacons on the front row shouting “preach brother preach, tell me like it is, and keep going God is anointing you.”
Over the years I have read a number of books on preaching, watched a number of preaches on television, attended a thousands of church services and revivals. Every pastor, evangelist, and Bible teacher has their own unique personality and style. In the African American church you will be challenged to take your personality and preaching the next level. As you feel that compassion and excitement as you preach. I pray that every pastor, evangelist and Bible teacher would have the same opportunities that I have and continue to have to speak in African American churches. It is the most humbling, exciting, refreshing, challenging, and rewarding time all wrapped up in 45 to 60 minutes you will ever have.
I should point out here a very important component of preaching in the African American church, and it is summed up in one word relationship, I’m convinced the reason that I have so much freedom, fun, and excitement in the African American churches I preach in is I have a relationship or a better word is friendship with the pastor.  Sunday morning remains the most racially divided time in America and we need to change that, by building relationships and friendships that will allow us to have the freedom to cross over into churches of various cultures and make an impact for Christ.
I want to thank the many friends I have in the African American community that have allowed me over the years to show up, and show out. I have never been disappointed in seeing God move as I have preached the uncompromised word of God in their churches.
               

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Heart is breaking …

 In June of 2002 following the events of September 11, my family and I moved to Staten Island to work with individuals that were affected by that tragedy in New York City.  I was in charge of a ministry called “The Hope Center.”  The ministry only functioned for about a year, and we had to return to Cincinnati.

The purpose and vision of The Hope Center was to help individuals deal with emotional and psychological crisis, such as the East Coasters are currently experiencing with the recent storm, Sandy.  My heart breaks as I read the news, watch television, and listen to the radio. The entire region is experiencing overwhelming grief, isolation, and desperation, and many do not have even the most basic necessities.

It is time for local churches, the universal denominations, and the Para-church ministries to stand up and tell the government to move out of the way and let us do what God has called us to do.  Food, clothing, and shelter should be available to anyone and everyone in the storm torn region.

Someone reported that the bridges are closed. Why? If they are unsafe, take the supplies in by foot, in boats, in helicopters or any other number of imaginative ways that God provides  This is America, we were built on the “can do” philosophy.   It is time for us to do what most of us already know how to do very well.

I applaud the local governments for what they have done, but I believe that their attitude of, “we know how to run this better than anyone else,” is a false sense of pride and a failure to those who need help now.

But, unfortunately, I believe that the church has become complacent and willing to let the government do it. I recently asked a pastor friend of mine what the emergency plan for his church was if a disaster like 'Sandy' hit his town. He looked at me funny and said, “That’s what the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the government are for.”

  As we watch and hear the events unfolding, we realize it is about the people and families coming together and not about waiting for the government to do it all. The church provides their communities with prayer, encouraging words, multiple types of support, sharing of resources, and a compassionate God that touches every heart.
Each church must develop its own plan for an unforeseen disaster. Hopefully, they reach out to their fellow church organizations and work together, along with the government, to insure that all who in their care receive what they need with a minimum of suffering.

Each church should be asking itself these questions and coming up with the answers:

1. What is our church's plan to meet the needs of our community when we face disaster?

2. How do we deliver spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical support along with the basic needs to support life, food, clothing, and shelter?

3.  How do we coordinate with the fellow churches in our community to insure no one is left out?